Friday, September 9, 2016

Best of the Archives: Mission Impossible…or Quality vs Quantity

By Debby Giusti

If you’re like me, you’ve probably grappled with the Quality vs Quantity question. At first, my focus was on improving the quality of my writing. I studied craft and worked to ensure my stories had all the key facets that would make them shine. After writing a number of books, my pace increased, although quality was still more important to me than my rate of production.

Some of you may remember a study on the quantity/quality issue (ART & FEAR, David Bayles and Ted Orland, Image Continuum, 1993) I referenced in a previous blog. An art instructor divided her students into two groups. One group was told to work on only one piece of art during the entire semester. That piece of art would be submitted at the end of class for a grade. In the other section, the students were told to produce as much art as they could in the same time period. Those who created numerous works of art ended up with higher grades, and their work was far superior to the group that spent all semester on one project. From the study, it’s easy to deduce that increasing production, or quantity, also improves quality.

One of my writing goals this year has been to increase my production. In keeping with that goal, I wrote two novellas for the Seeker collections, in addition to my contracted Love Inspired Suspense stories. The deadlines kept me focused and on track, and the novellas provided a refreshing change of pace between the longer stories. The only setback came when the story line for my September 2016 book took longer than usual to develop. For whatever reason, the characters wouldn’t cooperate and getting the first three chapters and synopsis into a final form ate up precious time that I needed to complete the rest of the story.

That's when I attended the Georgia Romance Writers’ Moonlight and Magnolias Conference and knew God was in charge when I stumbled into Candace Havens’ Fast Draft workshop on how to write a book in a month. Candace provides lots of motivation for those who sign up for her online program, and I’ll only touch on a few of the strategies she provided in her workshop. Basically, she said to write twenty pages a day for two weeks without editing or revising to produce a Fast Draft. During the second two weeks, edit thirty pages a day. Accountability is important, and she suggests tackling the month with other writers and sharing daily page counts.

Thankfully, I had completed the synopsis and first three chapters, which for me are always the most difficult to write, but with a deadline looming—only a month away—I took what I needed from her workshop and quickly started working. To write fast, I used my AlphaSmart, a portable word processor. Each of its eight files holds 25 pages of text when downloaded to my computer and formatted into Courier New, 12 font, double-spaced pages, with one inch margins. My 55,000-word Love Inspired Suspense manuscripts run about 325 pages, or 13 AlphaSmart files. That meant I needed to fill an AlphaSmart file--or write 25 pages—every day.

To speed me along, I set my kitchen timer for 30 minute intervals and wrote non-stop until I heard it ding. Then I’d break for water, a quick stretch, and start writing again. The days passed quickly, and my Fast Draft was completed rather easily by the end of the first two weeks.

The second two weeks were much more intensive. I edited a minimum of six hours a day. Some sections of the story required more work than others, and I soon found that I couldn’t use Candace’s 30 page/day editing formula. Rather, I worked back and forth through the pages, approximating my progress and praying I could complete the revisions on time. What seemed, at the beginning of the process, to be a Mission Impossible turned into a success. By the end of the month, I had a completed manuscript that was submitted on time.

Towards the end of my Fast Draft month, I saw a quote on Facebook attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi that intrigued me:

As you probably know, Francis was a 13th Century Italian who gave away his family wealth to follow Christ. His quote probably refers to living the Gospel message and performing Christian acts of mercy and compassion, but it applies to the writing life as well.

Oldest known portrait of St. Francis, dating to 1223,
located in St. Benedict's Cave in Subiaco. (PD-US)
We start by doing what is necessary. For me that was creating the story line and writing the synopsis that I used as a guide. Then I did what was possible. I wrote 25 pages a day. Turning the rough draft into a polished story was the hardest step in the process. At first, the task seemed almost impossible, but by working through the pages, day after day, the story came to life.

My goal was to write faster so I could be become more productive. In the future, I plan to use Fast Draft to write the bulk of the story, but I’ll allot more time for edits and revisions.

To unleash creativity, give yourself permission to write without editing. Don’t think of the impossible, think of what’s necessary. That’s the key. Ask yourself, “What can I do today?” Accomplish that first task and then move on to the next goal. Repetition/quantity improves ability/quality. Soon we’re achieving tasks we never imagined possible … and eventually, we’ll be doing the impossible and doing it well.

What’s your impossible? How can you break it down into steps to make it achievable? Remember #NOLIMITS!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti
Visit me on Facebook for Daily Scripture and Sacred Art 

By Debby Giusti

When widowed doctor Ella Jacobsen is attacked and left for dead in her childrens’ clinic, the peace she’s found in Georgia’s Amish country is shattered. Someone is after something in her clinic and wants her out of the way...but what are they looking for? Ella knows only that her life is in the hands of army special agent Zach Swain. Zach can’t resist the vulnerable but headstrong Ella, who stares down danger to care for the people she loves. With one look, the loner soldier goes from investigator to protector. To save Ella, he must uncover the secrets that swirl around the idyllic community. And he needs to do it fast, because Ella is running out of time.

Order HERE!